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Archive for June, 2009

Posted by nhavey on June 12th, 2009

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war.

Members of congress are threatening to vote against the War Supplemental because of the cash for clunkers provision or the IMF line of credit. However, it is the issue at the core of the bill, funding the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, that really justifies its defeat.

What the Military Does

The United States Military is the finest fighting force that has ever existed. Service members are trained to defeat any enemy with lighting fast and overwhelming force. Theirs is not work of nuance and diplomacy. They are trained to hate the enemy. The enemy in this case is indistinguishable from a civilian.

We hear a lot about the need for the military to provide security in Afghanistan so that the government can function, institutions can take root, and the country can develop. When I think about the military providing security in an area, I assume they set up a perimeter and make sure anyone coming in and out goes through check points where they can be screened for weapons. Something like a more thorough version of what happens when we go through airport security.

There are checkpoints to be sure, but what ’securing’ an area actually means is sending marines on door to door raids of an area, often in the dead of night. You don’t knock on doors, the vets told me, you kick them in, storm the building, drag people out of bed – often tying their hands and even hooding them until you are confident you know where every person in the building is. Then you look for weapons and explosives which usually aren’t there. If anyone resists, you beat and arrest them. Your orders are to detain, and sometimes to kill anyone who looks suspicious.

There is an assumption that security brings stability, but this kind of security only fans the flames of the insurgency.

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 12th, 2009

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Director Robert Greenwald appeared on The Ed Show yesterday to discuss the civilian casualties of war, the fourth segment of Rethink Afghanistan. To my knowledge, this was the first time Brave New Foundation’s exclusive footage from an Afghan refugee camp reached mainstream news audiences. And Greenwald was right there to hammer home the message that the war in Afghanistan is militarizing what is actually a regional political problem.

It’s so crucial for more people to see this exclusive footage because it puts a human face on the war, US military airstrikes, and indiscriminate bombing. Gripping images from Afghan refugee camps remind us that Afghanistan is the third poorest country in the world–a country that, as Greenwald said, needs teachers, educators, doctors, and humanitarian aid instead of more soldiers and wartime spending.

It’s not easy for the mainstream media to report the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. The images and subject matter are deeply upsetting, and they fly in the face of policies set by a popular White House administration. What’s more, it’s literally difficult for reporters to access the real story, considering the stringer hired to film this refugee camp was arrested by the Taliban. Now that Brave New Foundation has made this footage available and it has aired on The Ed Show, however, hopefully other networks will follow MSNBC’s example.

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Posted by GRITtv on June 11th, 2009

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Rethink Afghanistan is both a documentary project and a full-on campaign to widen the discussion about Afghanistan amongst policymakers and the American public. The filmmakers hope to reach members of Congress and change the course of action towards this poorly understood country. Thanks to Brave New Films for this video

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 11th, 2009

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Director Robert Greenwald will be on The Ed Schultz Show tonight on MSNBC to discuss the soon-to-be-released fourth segment of Rethink Afghanistan, which focuses on civilian casualties.  All week long, we’ve been releasing exclusive footage that offers a sobering look at the dire situation on the ground in Afghanistan in the wake of recent US airstrikes.  Yesterday I wrote this footage ought to be aired on major news networks like MSNBC and CNN, in order for the public to be better informed about the war.  Well, we now have a HUGE opportunity to air one of these clips on such a network.  The only question is, which clip should we use?

Watch all four clips below, pick the one you think we should use on The Ed Schultz Show and leave a comment.

1. EXCLUSIVE: Air Raid Victim Tells Obama to Leave Afghanistan at Once

2. EXCLUSIVE: Starving Afghan Family Displaced by US Airstrike

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Posted by Steve Hynd on June 11th, 2009

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There’s a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight today, the subject of which is a $189 million contract to provide security services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul awarded by the State Dept to ArmorGroup North America, Inc. (“AGNA”), a subsidiary of the British-owned ArmorGroup International in 2007. AGNA were supposed to provide a highly trained security force for the embassy.

But that’s not how it turned out, according to the documents lodged with the hearing. The subcommittee staff summary says:

The Kabul embassy contract can be viewed as a case study of how mismanagement and lack of oversight can result in poor performance. The record before the Subcommittee shows that AGNA’s performance on the Kabul embassy contract has been deficient since the start of the contract in July 2007. The result is that, at times, the security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul may have been placed at risk.

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Posted by dcrowe on June 10th, 2009

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President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week shows that he’s taking the advice of folks urging the U.S. to drop the us-versus-them “War on Terror” rhetorical frame in favor of one that reinforces the idea of a conflict within Islam about the use of violence in political conflict. For quite some time, proponents of “strategic communications” have warned that our way of talking about the conflict between the United States and violent extremism aides Al-Qaida’s efforts to radicalize Muslim populations and recruit new terrorists. By wading into the Koran in his speech, the president seems to be taking their advice. The problem, of course, is that the consequences of our own use of violence, including high numbers of civilian dead, undermine efforts to improve our relations with the Muslim world through better messaging.

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 10th, 2009

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Why isn’t this footage on CNN or MSNBC? Why can’t the American public have easy access to it? Those are questions we should be asking ourselves as we watch the powerful images of Abdullah Khan, a refugee from Afghanistan’s Helmland province forced to seek shelter in an IDP camp outside Kabul.

Innocent people who lost loved ones and limbs, homes and all possessions during recent US airstrikes are now living in tents, unable to provide food or water for themselves or their children. It’s no wonder Khan, who lost two or three family members himself, resents the US military presence so deeply. “Americans don’t do us any good,” he says. “When the Americans came these atrocities happened. When the Americans were not here, things were calm; there was the same earth and sky. When the Russians came, they bombarded us, and also now the Americans are bombarding us. What benefit did the Americans bring us?”

This exclusive footage is from the soon-to-be-released fourth segment of Rethink Afghanistan, which focuses on civilian casualties. Brave New Foundation is releasing it in the hopes that others use it to raise awareness about the dire situation on the ground in Afghanistan right now, but thus far, it appears the corporate media is not doing their job in covering this war accurately. When US airstrikes killed up to 143 civilians in Farah province last month — an attack that was the direct result of military error — FireDogLake blogger Siun discovered CNN was merely repeating the Department of Defense’s spin on the story.

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 9th, 2009

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Here is a face of the war in Afghanistan. Najibullah, an air raid victim from the Malwand district of Kandahar, points to where three bombs shattered his home during a recent US airstrike. His message to President Obama: Withdraw US forces from Afghanistan at once. “They’re going to leave anyway,” Najibullah says. “It’s better for them to leave Afghanistan on their own terms now rather than later. To leave our country voluntarily. We’re all deformed, people are missing fingers. Look at my finger.” He points to a missing index finger on his right hand. “Some people are missing eyes, some people are missing legs. Some are missing their arms. They destroyed the whole nation.”

This exclusive footage, which Brave New Foundation released today as part of the soon-to-be-released fourth segment of Rethink Afghanistan, stands as an unflinching testament to the rampant devastation wrought by recent US airstrikes in Afghanistan. It should be seen by everyone who attempts to write off the civilian casualties of this war with the dehumanizing phrase “collateral damage.” It should be seen by everyone in Congress considering whether to escalate this quagmire with $96.7 billion in supplemental wartime spending. And it should be seen by Gen. Stanley McChrystal as he submits his review of US strategy in Afghanistan–the fifth review this year–and tries to pretend the war in Afghanistan is not a quagmire that’s destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians like Najibullah.

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Posted by Quincy Surasmith on June 9th, 2009

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Jorge Morales Almada de La Ch | June 9 2009

El hombre del turbante salió de la mesquita después de la primera oración del día. Era miércoles en el centro de Bagdad e ideal para que el equipo de espionaje del Ejército de Estados Unidos pasara desapercibido entre la multitud. Se trataba del jeque Abd al-Rahman, pieza clave para dar con el paradero de Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, líder en Irak de la red terrorista de al-Qaeda.

“Cuando se baje del automóvil blanco y se suba a uno azul, es que va a encontrarse con al-Zarqawi”, fue la pista que les dio un militante del grupo terrorista que había sido detenido por las tropas estadounidenses seis semanas antes de ese 7 de junio de 2006.

De manera discreta lo siguieron por más de 50 kilómetros hacia el norte, hasta una pequeña aldea a las afueras de Baquba, donde al-Rahman se bajó del vehículo y se introdujo a la casa que resultó ser el escondite del jefe máximo de al-Qaeda en Irak y por quien el gobierno estadounidense ofrecía 25 millones de dólares como recompensa, lo mismo que se ofrece por Osama Bin Laden.

zarqawi_in_april_2006

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi en abril de 2006

Los espías estadounidenses lo habían confirmado, ahí estaba al-Zarqawi hablando con al-Rahman. Era el momento idóneo para capturarlo, pero las fuerzas especiales de combate estaban a media hora de distancia en helicóptero. El comandante a cargo no quiso correr riesgo de fuga y ordenó que los dos jets F-16 Fighting Falcons que se aproximaban soltaran sobre la vivienda las 500 libras de explosivos que llevaban.

La EXPLOSIÓN formó una cruz de polvo y escombro. Ahí murió al-Zarqawi y su consejero espiritual al-Rahman, además de una mujer y un niño.

Cuando llegaron los soldados, minutos después del bombardeo, al-Zarqawi era sacado de entre los escombros por policías iraquís. Un soldado estadounidense se le acercó y fue entonces cuando al verlo a los ojos, el terrorista soltó el último respiro.

La historia la cuenta Matthew Alexander, de 39 años de edad y líder de ese equipo de inteligencia del U.S. Army que interrogó a Abu Haydar, un hombre cercano al jeque al-Rahman.

“Abu Haydar es un hombre muy inteligente, es como Hannibal Lecter de la película Silence of the lambs, muy elegante e inteligente, manipulaba a los interrogadores y después de tres semanas de interrogatorios no obteníamos nada”, comentó Matthew Alexander, nombre que adoptó por seguridad de su familia.

Quienes lo interrogaban se daban por vencidos. Ni las amenazas sobre divulgar la versión de que estaba cooperando con los estadounidenses para que se tomaran represalias en contra de su familia daban resultado. Alexander asegura que nunca se utilizó la violencia. Pero sí la tortura psicológica.

“El comandante decidió mandarlo a la prisión de Abu Ghraib y yo sólo tenía seis horas más para que dijera algo, entonces cambié el método y decidí interrogarlo por mi cuenta. Pasamos más de cinco horas hablando de la historia de Irak, de su cultura, le mostré respeto por su religión, porque es un hombre muy culto, y yo antes de irme a la guerra leí sobre el Corán y la historia de Irak”.

Con esa prolongada plática Alexander se ganó la confianza de Abu Haydar y al final se la jugó con un “bluff” al ofrecerle una negociación: “Dame un nombre y te recluto en un programa secreto del gobierno, porque necesitamos sunís para que trabajen con nosotros en la próxima guerra con Irán”.

Minutos de silencio… y entonces se escuchó de la voz de Haydar: “Conozco a Abu Ayuub al-Masri”.

Se trataba del mejor amigo de al-Zarqawi y lo que valió para retener dos semanas más en interrogatorios a Haydar antes de enviarlo a Abu-Ghraib.

“Yo sabía que si conocía a al-Masri debía saber más nombres, si soltó ese nombre sabía más, por eso pedí que no fuera enviado a Abu Grahib, era una muy buena pista, y dos semanas después, como ya me había ganado su confianza, me reveló el nombre del consejero espiritual de al-Zarqawi, que era al-Rahman”.

rahman

Jeque Abd al-Rahman

La experiencia de los casi cinco meses que estuvo en Irak (de marzo a julio de 2006) le ha confirmado a Matthew Alexander que la mejor manera de interrogar a un detenido es a base de la confianza y no de la tortura, como lo cuenta en su libro How to break a terrorist, que escribió en conjunto con John Bruning y que cuenta con prólogo de Mark Bowden, quien entre otros libros es el autor de Black Hawk Down y Killing Pablo (la historia de la muerte de Pablo Escobar).

“Se requiere de confianza para un buen interrogatorio. Las represalias y amenazas no son el objeto de un interrogatorio, sino la colaboración”, dijo quien hace un mes se mudó a Los Ángeles para empezar a promover la filmación de una película sobre su libro y a trabajar como asesor en un programa de televisión.

Alexander también acudió hace un par de semanas al set de 24 para hablar con el productor ejecutivo Howard Gordon y los escritores de ese programa de televisión para tratar el tema de la tortura.

“Porque ellos están presentando el asunto de la tortura como efectivo, cuando Jack Bauer usa la tortura, pero no es así y las encuestas en Estados Unidos dicen que el 50% de la población cree que está bien usar la tortura y eso es increíble, hasta el juez Antonin Scalia (de la Suprema Corte de Justicia) y la senadora Lindsey Graham han hablado a favor de la tortura, eso no puede ser”.

Para este soldado del Ejército cuya misión fue matar a al-Zarqawi, la tortura sólo está provocando más sentimiento de venganza entre el pueblo iraquí.

“No creo en la tortura, porque les demuestras una vez más por qué te odian. Cuando usamos la tortura al-Qaeda se beneficia para reclutar soldados nuevos. La razón número uno por la que llegan a Irak nuevos combatientes de África, Arabia Saudí, Siria, etc., es para pelear por el abuso y la tortura de musulmanes. Hay quienes pueden decir que efectiva a corto plazo, pero creas más soldados en el futuro y así no puedes ganar la guerra”.

Alexander dice que es necesario entender y respetar la cultura y la religión de los musulmanes. “Porque es peor cuando no mostramos respeto a su religión, es peor que la tortura… La tortura es inmoral, no es consistente con los principios y valores de Estados Unidos, dicen que salva vidas, eso no me importa, porque Estados Unidos no es un país de vidas, sino de principios”.

Seguro de que Estados Unidos no puede librarse de otro ataque teroorista, como soldado Alexander considera que para detener el terrorismo hay que entender las causas que lo originaron y que tiene que ver con la intolerancia.

“Debemos detener la causa del por qué la gente usa el terrorismo, eso sólo viene de la educación, si queremos ganar la guerra no necesitamos más soldados, necesitamos más escuelas… La frontera de la guerra es la educación, con eso vamos a combatir la intolerancia, esa es la guerra que tenemos que ganar”.

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Posted by Rick Reyes on June 9th, 2009

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I have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq for our country. I was ordered to conduct nightly patrols, in which my fellow soldiers and I ransacked homes, arresting and beating dozens of people. I have witnessed firsthand the disastrous consequences of an ineffective U.S. military strategy, and I can tell you Congress must not escalate this quagmire with a $96.7 billion supplemental wartime spending bill.

Call the following Representatives and ask them not to support The Supplemental Appropriations Act HR 2346:

  1. Rep. Tammy Baldwin at (202) 225-2906
  2. Rep. James McDermott at (206) 553-7170
  3. Rep. Lynn Woolsey at (202) 225-5161
  4. Rep. Jared Polis at (202) 225-2161
  5. Rep. Mike Thompson at (202) 225-3311

My experiences serving our country led me to join ten other Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans to found a new organization called “Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan.” We have been meeting with members of Congress urging them not to approve this legislation, which became even more controversial when leaders tacked on provisions to give the International Monetary Fund $108 billion for a European bank bailout. With those added provisions, many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, have begun pulling their support for this spending bill.

As FireDogLake blogger Jane Hamsher recently wrote, “We’ve given money to members of Congress for years because they opposed the war. We urged them again and again to cut off supplemental appropriations…If they won’t hold this administration to the same standards that they applied to the Bush administration, it was all just demagoguery to be tossed overboard when their political advantage lay elsewhere.”

Make some calls today, either by contacting the members of Congress listed here who could really use a boost of support so they don’t buckle under political machine pressure, or by contacting those in Hamsher’s post. Whatever it takes to curb wartime spending.

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